This is a day to celebrate love, and I am celebrating all the love I have received in this my new homeland. Twenty years ago today I was sworn in as a citizen in Denver, Colorado.
To become an American citizen was a “must do” for me. My oldest daughter, Eva-Marie, could have faced deportation. When we received our Resident Alien status she was 21 years old and could not receive the status automatically as her younger sister. The only way to keep her with us was to apply for citizenship. You should have seen her face when she finally received the Resident status! It was like she’d won millions on the Lottery!
THE PROCESS OF “SELLING” MYSELF TO IMMIGRATION AUTHORITIES
But the process to get to that point was nerve-racking. I had to “sell” myself! It was one thing to do it to the editor in chief of the Spanish department at Editorial Vida, known in English as Life Publishers, as a first step to come to the USA. You can read the story in my blogs of May 16-21, 2012. But to “sell” myself to the immigration authorities was quite another story.
Have you ever looked for a needle in a haystack? No, I haven’t either, but to start the process of obtaining resident status felt something like that. Where would we start? The most logical seemed to be to visit the immigration office. We found out that you had to go there early in the morning to stand in line. “Early” is like 4:00 AM.
Rumors are rumors. We went to the big, impressive building and stood in line. For what? Only to get a form we could fill out but didn’t have a clue where to hand in. At that tall, impressive building there was no one to talk to, not one window with a sign, “We answer your questions.”
Other rumors said we needed a lawyer. Those rumors were true! But to find a lawyer was like walking in a maze. Where should we turn next? And how could we afford it?
After some failed attempts, we were recommended a Christian man from El Salvador who worked with a lawyer. “El Salvador” means “The Savior.” That man became our savior! He knew the ropes and he would guide me, step by step.
What would our approach be? We had to prove that my “expertise” was not to be found in the United States. “Vida” needed to develop a curriculum for Latin America, and to best serve that community they needed someone with experience from that area.
Now came the “selling” part all over again. My big stack of published curriculum made its way to my “savior” man. He was very pleased because he had never had so much positive proof to make his case with.
There seemed no end to the forms to fill out. Birth certificates had to be acquired and translated (by legal translators), our marriage certificate, proof that we had no criminal records in Sweden, Peru or Bolivia, certificates that proved my qualifications… forms and forms and forms. And everything cost money!
MY HUSBAND WORRIED ABOUT THE INTERVIEW
One thing that worried my husband was the interview. We heard horror stories about those interviews. He was just learning the language and was very nervous about it. “I’m going to pray I don’t have to have an interview,” he said. I told him he was crazy to think he would get out of it. “Pray that God helps you answer the questions,” I said to him.
My hard work of filling out all the forms and getting proof of “expertise” together paid off. I received a work permit, called H visa. Then my “savior” friend got me busy starting all over again. This time we would be applying for residency, for what was called a “green card,” even if the card was pink!
Two and a half years later we received notice that we would have our interviews, and for that we had to travel to Stockholm. Our Eva-Marie had turned 21 and could no longer automatically receive residence status together with us. I’m sure we could have applied for leniency since it was borderline, but our girl was in a depressed and rebellious state of mind and the only thing she cared about was to go to Bolivia.
She had plenty of time later to regret this foolish decision, and it cost us so much extra grief in years to come. But at the time being, our youngest daughter, my husband and I went to Stockholm, Sweden. There we had to pass some medical tests, which would have been easy if not for the fact that we had lived in South America and had been exposed to tuberculosis.
We passed those tests. We had one more hurdle: the interview! Remember that my husband had prayed to get out of it? God was merciful; He knew his boy, so he granted the request. I handled all the paperwork and went up to the window ready for us to be called to the interview room. But there was no interview. The lady at the counter stamped our passports. We could return to the United States as resident aliens!
“No interview! No interview!” I ran back to my husband with the news.
Once again, we had seen Gods loving care. He cares for us as individuals and he listens to our prayers. In April of 1991, it meant that the immigration official skipped the interview.
We would see many more proofs of being in God’s loving care. Like when it was time to renew the “green card” and my husband had forgotten about it. The Holy Spirit woke him up one night and reminded him about it. That was just in time. Had he waited some more the card would have expired. God is so good!
WHEN DEPORTATION WAS AT OUR DOOR
Our “savior” friend helped us to renew our daughter’s tourist visa every six months, until we moved from Florida to Colorado. Our attempts to please the immigration authorities were futile and Eva-Marie received a notice of deportation.
I will spare you the tale of the desperation we went through. When consulting a lawyer, he suggested one of us, my husband or I, become an American citizen. It fell on me, since I was the one with the better job income. We met the stipulation of being a resident alien for five years. So, I started the process. Truth is, I felt as a betrayer to my own country, Sweden. But Dad reminded me who I did it for.
So, it turned out, that on Valentine’s Day 1997, I was sworn in as an American citizen. Twenty years have come and gone. Years of sorrow and pain, but also of happiness and gain. My husband and Eva-Marie are in their eternal home. Thanks to Carina and her husband I now have my grandchildren to dote on. We will have dinner together tonight.
I am thankful for the country that has received me so gracefully. It is a privilege to be accepted here. The immigration issue is very much on the news these days. For those of us who worked hard to get a legal status going through the right sources it doesn’t seem fair that so many “sneak in” to this country. There is a legal way of getting here. It can be nerve-racking, but so worth it in the end.
May God bless the USA! I am forever thankful that I can count myself as one of its citizens. May God bless our President, and help him deal rightfully and gracefully with the millions of immigrants looking for the American Dream.
I love the USA! Happy Valentine’s Day!